“The laborer is worthy of his hire” (Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; I Timothy 5:18). “Those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (I Corinthians 9:14).
The pastor deserves a decent income. That is a given. It is scriptural and reasonable.
In order to make that happen, some churches need to change their ways. And for that to occur, every pastor needs an advocate. At least one, and ideally several.
An advocate: Someone who will stand up for him, speak out for him, be his voice.
Yes, we have an advocate in Heaven’s throne room. “…we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1). So, in Heaven, One is speaking up for us. Are we blessed or what?
We thank God for Jesus, our Heavenly Advocate.
What your pastor needs is a different kind of advocate. He needs someone to stand up for him before the finance and personnel committee, in front of the deacons, with the congregation. Someone who is knowledgeable, capable, sweet-spirited, and courageous. Someone who is unafraid of probing questions or suspicious accusations. Someone who is tenacious and will not back down until the church does the right thing. Someone who believes that to love a pastor is to love the Lord Jesus. And vice versa.
Someone with no agenda of his own, who wants only to honor the Lord, strengthen the church, and encourage the messenger the Lord has sent as shepherd of this flock.
This means the advocate does not take the rejection personally, in case the leadership does not heed his/her counsel. But he will not go away.
In a perfect world–and within a pretty good church–the pastor will have a crowd of supporters who love him and pray for him and speak up for him. In the real world, you’d be surprised how few pastors have no one willing to stand out in front of their peers and be his voice. To be his advocate.
I hear from pastors frequently. Their stories are depressingly similar. The one this week told how he had taken a huge pay cut to go to another church. “I knew my work was finished there and the Lord was leading me to this new field,” he said. And, importantly, the leadership of the new church knew he was taking a greatly diminished salary to do the Lord’s will. But four years into that pastorate, there had been no change in his salary. And when he moved to the next church, he took a further cut of several thousand dollars. In all, he was now making $36,000 less than he had been receiving two churches back. What’s more, the leadership knew this. Finally, they agreed to grant him a cost of living raise. And “you should have heard the hollering,” he said. “People were stunned that the pastor was making this much money.”
The saddest thing the pastor said was, “No one was willing to stand up for me.”
God is faithful. We could wish His people were.
Why is it that no one is willing to take a stand for the pastor? I suspect I know the reasons (plural, for they are numerous).
–They trust others to do this job, and assume it’s being taken care of. “We have a committee to handle this.” “That’s the deacons’ job; I’m sure they’re on top of this.”
You ought to ask, friend. Ask the appropriate committee or leader. Find out what they know, what they are doing, what they need you to do.
–They do not want to provoke the wrath of those who are always anti-pastor. Every church has one or two, and some congregations are poisoned by an abundance. These are people who do not trust pastors, who fear the church is overpaying them, and who live by the mantra, “Lord, you meet his needs and we will keep him humble.” God help the pastor sentenced to lead such a toxic flock.
–The church simply cannot afford a raise. And, sometimes it’s true. But in most cases, not paying your minister sufficiently is a matter of misplaced priorities, ingrained attitudes, and entrenched leadership.
–Many people are lazy and uncaring. They never give the preacher’s needs a thought.
Every church needs two things: A finance/personnel committee on top of its responsibility and one or two strong leaders who will advocate (verb meaning “to stand up for”) for the pastor.
–The finance (or personnel or administrative) committee needs capable and responsible members who will stay informed as to what the pastor’s financial situation is, what pastors of similar-sized churches receive, and what the pastor’s history is in churches he previously served. The only way to find this out is to ask him. The best way to do that is by simply inviting him to sit down with the full committee and answer all their questions. Someone takes notes on what the pastor says and keeps it for the committee’s future reference. Once the preacher realizes the committee is on his side and will keep the information in confidence, he should be able to open up and inform them.
Don’t miss that: They must keep this in confidence. Always.
A finance committee must be composed of knowledgeable and courageous people who will be able to lead the church to do the right thing.
–One or two strong leaders who will speak up for the pastor. This needs some explanation and a suggestion or two.
We’re not talking about the pastor’s best friend in the church going to bat for him. While that’s not bad, it might make him suspect. “He plays golf with the pastor, so I guess they worked this all out.” “No doubt the preacher told him what to say.”
The best advocates are the godliest, most mature, humble and courageous people in the church. They should take it upon themselves to learn (from the finance chairman, ideally) what exactly the pastor is making and what he received in previous years, and to learn exactly what the pastor feels his needs are at the moment (learned from the preacher himself).
Let the pastor pray the Lord will raise up such a person. Because he/she cannot be enlisted. God has to do this.
Incidentally, I’ve found that adult children of pastors make good advocates for their present pastors. They have been there and know. They have memories good and bad, and are under no illusion that “the church will always do the right thing”. They might, and many do. But they all need godly believers to stand up and take the lead.
Sadly, many an adult PK has left the church or gone to another denomination because of their family’s experiences. They could make such a difference for the churches if they remained and decided to speak up.
Repeating the line above, a pastor who does not have an advocate in his church should not try to recruit one, but ask the Father. Once the Lord raises up the right person, the pastor should cooperate but stay out of it. Deniability is an important thing. Someone asks, “Pastor, did you tell Deacon Johnson to bring this request before our committee?” Pastor: “I did not. Mr. Johnson and I have not even talked about this at all. But let me say, I am grateful that he did. I appreciate it more than I can say.”
God, help your people to get this right. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!